The COVID-19 vaccine has been a hot topic since its first doses were rolled out last winter.
Now, businesses are laxing their mask mandates for those who are vaccinated. Minnesota and Wisconsin have both said that those who are fully vaccinated no longer have to wear masks in public. The Center for Disease Control says that if you’re vaccinated, you don’t need a mask unless you’re somewhere that mandates one.
While vaccines have been debated publicly for years, the COVID-19 vaccine brings new debates to light. Some people believe in vaccinations, but fear the COVID-19 vaccine is too new and was developed too quickly. Others believe in vaccinating those who are older or more likely to become ill, but hesitate to give the COVID-19 vaccine to younger generations. Still, others are unsure about or against inoculation altogether, and others believe the only step toward a healthier future is to get vaccinated.
Debates about the COVID-19 vaccine are likely to bring new disagreements to custody arrangements — especially as we enter a new summer break with summer visitation.
Our number one recommendation is to schedule a custody evaluation to discuss this and any other concerns that you may have with your ex and an expert in the law. Then summer can be stress-free for everyone. Don’t place anyone — you, your child or your ex — through the hassle of a court case. It likely won’t end until well after school resumes, anyway. But for some helpful tips as you navigate your custody arrangement and public health in the meantime, read further!
No one can force you to get vaccinated. But we don’t know how refusing the vaccination will affect your custody agreement
Let’s say that reevaluating your arrangement in a custody evaluation doesn’t work out, so you take your vaccine dispute to court. The judge will not argue the effectiveness, safety or whether you or your ex will be forced to get vaccinated.
What the judge will decide is what’s in the best interest of your child. It’s still too soon to tell whether something like a refusal to get vaccinated can keep you from spending time with your child. It’s also hard to say what kinds of exemptions, from religious to health to personal freedoms, a judge will take into consideration when weighing the issue.
However, we’ve already seen at least one COVID-19 custody dispute play out in Minnesota’s courts, specifically related to summer break, to boot. Soon enough we’re bound to know just how a judge may rule when the COVID-19 vaccine is on the court docket.
A judge doesn’t have to make your family’s public health decisions
Currently, the vaccine is approved for children ages 12 and older. Trials are also currently underway for children younger than that, and it’s hard to say when those younger ages may be approved for the vaccine.
So which parent decides whether your children get vaccinated? Don’t run to court. Refer to your custody agreement. You likely covered public health when you created your custody agreement, and determined which parent makes these decisions — and maybe even how you’d make such decisions.
If your original custody agreement states that Mom makes the final call at the doctor’s office, it’s likely up to Mom whether the kids receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Ok, but when you determined that Mom made decisions at the doctor’s office it’s not like you had any idea this global pandemic and its ensuing vaccine would emerge. That’s where a custody evaluation comes in. We’re here to sit down with you and your ex and establish where to go from here, with expert legal advice that doesn’t represent either side, and without the mess of a court case.
Until a new plan is in place, your signed custody agreement is law.
Whatever you do in the meantime, don’t try and defy the documented agreement that you originally signed. This may lead to legal penalties, and the court may actually get involved — and not in your favor.
Is your child’s other parent defying their signed custody agreement? If you’re located in Minnesota, call us about a parenting time expeditor and we can help!
Ask a family pediatrician or two. But keep your child out of the decision-making.
If you have a trusted family doctor or pediatrician, get their opinion on the COVID-19 vaccine. If it helps to have a second opinion, or just to show your ex your graciousness, get an opinion from a pediatrician or family doctor of their choice, too.
But while it may seem tempting to ask your child whether they want the COVID-19 vaccine, don’t place this heavy decision on their shoulders. It can especially seem like they’re choosing one parent’s side over the other.
Leave this one to the adults, and come to us for the legal expertise.